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The Ministers of Integration adopted in Yaoundé the principle of merging the various regional economic communities, starting next year.

Central Africa rid of these multiple Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in 2023? In any case, the authorities want to believe it after the recent meeting of the Steering Committee for the Rationalization of Regional Economic Communities in Central Africa, COPIL/CER-AC.

During its last meeting, which was held from August 11 to 12, 2022 in the Cameroonian capital, this technical body indeed validated the project to bring together regional economic spaces by the end of 2023.

This decision presupposes in particular the eventual disappearance of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), that of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), as well as the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries ( CEPGL) for the benefit of a single organization.

Community fragmentation

Name proposals already exist for this project which meets the recommendations of the African Union (AU) for a better integration of the different regions of the continent, and which awaits the favorable opinion of the Cameroonian Head of State Paul Biya, in charge the rationalization of REC-CAs.

Of the eight regional communities recognized by the AU, the Central African zone alone has three, including ECCAS with 11 members, CEMAC with six members and CEPGL with four members. A fragmentation that undermines integration efforts between countries at the institutional level in particular.

While the intermingling of peoples is indeed a reality despite the stigma of balkanization, it is sometimes faster and safer to import goods to Brazzaville or Kinshasa from towns much further afield than to trade between these two capitals, however, only separated by a river.

Bottlenecks

The lack of quality cross-border infrastructure, visa procedures, customs requirements and other administrative constraints, not to mention the many conflicts sometimes against a background of rivalry between States, are all obstacles to fully exploiting the potential of this region.

According to AU figures on regional integration, intraregional trade is estimated at only 5.4% within ECCAS, which has a GDP in 2019 of $204 billion. In comparison, the West African region (ECOWAS) revolves around 13.8% intraregional trade.

African leaders hope that all these bottlenecks will soon be eliminated through the rationalization of the RECs. This initiative is part of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Abuja Treaty, two programs aimed at “a broader and more elaborate integration” of the African continent.

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